Cebu Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - by Ador Vin­cent S. Mayol and In­

“In­ves­ti­gate us too.” This was the ap­peal of Mayor Vi­cente Loot of Daan­ban­tayan town in north­ern Cebu and for­mer Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama who, in 2016, were both pub­licly iden­ti­fied by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte as among the coun­try’s al­leged ille- gal drug pro­tec­tors but have never been for­mally charged. Loot and Rama were hop­ing to meet the same fate as Ce­buano busi­ness­man Peter Lim who was also linked into the il­le­gal drugs trade but even­tu­ally got off the hook af­ter the case against him was dis-

missed by the De­part­ment of Jus­tice’s (DOJ) Task Force on Il­le­gal Drugs for in­suf­fi­ciency of ev­i­dence.

“I’ve been plead­ing to au­thor­i­ties to in­ves­ti­gate me. How can I clear my name (if there’s no probe)? That is the sixty-four-dol­lar ques­tion,” Loot told CEBU DAILY NEWS over the phone on Tues­day.

Loot, also a re­tired po­lice gen­eral, said he ear­lier sub­mit­ted an af­fi­davit to the Na­tional Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (NBI) in Manila af­ter he was men­tioned by self-con­fessed drug lord Rolando “Ker­win” Espinosa Jr. as among those who re­ceived pro­tec­tion money from him.

How­ever, Loot has not heard any word from the NBI since then.

“I also went to the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice and the Philip­pine Drug En­force­ment Agency, ask­ing these agen­cies to in­ves­ti­gate me, and yet noth­ing hap­pened,” he said.

“In­ves­ti­gate me as if you wanted me jailed or killed. I’m se­ri­ous be­cause that is the only way to clear my name,” he added.

Un­proven charges

Like Loot, Rama said he and his fam­ily con­tin­ued to be weighed down by the hu­mil­i­a­tion they suf­fered from the ac­cu­sa­tions made by no less than the Pres­i­dent of the coun­try, even if these were not sub­stan­ti­ated.

“Grabe na kaayo ang akong gi­a­gian (What I am go­ing through is too much). I’m telling you, I am al­most los­ing my self-es­teem be­cause I am ac­cused of some­thing I have not done,” he told CDN in a sep­a­rate in­ter­view.

Rama said he was dis­mayed be­cause he con­tin­ued to be la­beled as a drug pro­tec­tor since no for­mal in­ves­ti­ga­tion was ever con­ducted against him.

“What is there to in­ves­ti­gate when there is no com­plaint filed against me? For me, this is no longer about what we call ‘time heals.’ I be­lieve jus­tice is com­ing be­cause God would not al­low bad things to hap­pen to any­one who is in­no­cent like me,” he said.

“That is why I am lift­ing ev­ery­thing to God,” he added.

Rama, who served as mayor of Cebu City from 2010 to 2016, ap­pealed to Pres­i­dent Duterte to make an ef­fort to find out whether or not the con­tents of the drug list he re­ceived and an­nounced were re­li­able.

“Be­fore some­body will mur­der me, the Pres­i­dent should take ac­tion be­cause if it’s not for his un­fair and ir­re­spon­si­ble pro­nounce­ment, things like these will not come up,” said Rama in ref­er­ence to a tar­pau­lin that pre­sented him as the next tar­get of an as­sas­si­na­tion plot.

The tar­pau­lin, which was placed on a sky­walk in Barangay Pardo, Cebu City last month, showed a 2016 photo where Rama took his oath as mem­ber of the United Na­tion­al­ist Al­liance (UNA) party be­fore the late Al­buera, Leyte Mayor Rolando “Daddy Onik” Espinosa Sr., as Cebu’s Ronda town Vice Mayor Jon­nah John Ungab looked on.

In the tar­pau­lin, the faces of Espinosa and Ungab — both of whom were killed in sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions — were marked with X. Rama’s face, on one hand, was en­cir­cled with a spray­painted text that read: “Ikaw ang sunod (You are next).”

The tar­pau­lin was taken down by Rama’s men im­me­di­ately af­ter he learned about it, as he raised con­cern over his safety.

“Just pray for me and be ready to de­liver a eu­logy. We’ll never know what will hap­pen to me,” he said.


Mean­while, the chief of the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion and De­tec­tion Group in Cen­tral Visayas (CIDG-7) hoped the DOJ would re­con­sider its rul­ing and file the ap­pro­pri­ate charges in court against Lim and Ker­win Espinosa, who along with Lim was also cleared of drug charges in­volv­ing their al­leged drug deal, and of sev­eral oth­ers who were linked to the il­le­gal drugs trade in the Visayas.

“It’s not that we are hope­less be­cause the res­o­lu­tion is still sub­ject for re­view. Let us just wait,” said CIDG-7 Di­rec­tor Roy­ina Garma.

She said it was the CIDG cen­tral of­fice in Manila that con­ducted the lead in­ves­ti­ga­tion against Lim.

The CIDG-7, she said, was just tasked to gather in­for­ma­tion about Lim’s as­sets in Cebu. But Garma said they could only do so much.

“We did our best. We re­quested dif­fer­ent agen­cies to pro­vide us with in­for­ma­tion about his as­sets, but be­cause of the Data Pri­vacy Act, we failed to get what we wanted. Not even his bank state­ments was made avail­able to us,” she lamented.

Garma ad­mit­ted that she was not sur­prised with the dis­missal of Lim’s case.

“I had reser­va­tions about the case be­cause I read the af­fi­davits of Adorco, but they were not as de­tailed as it should be,” she said.

The case filed against Lim by the CIDG’s Ma­jor Crimes In­ves­ti­ga­tion Unit was solely an­chored on the tes­ti­monies of Marcelo Adorco, one of al­leged hench­men of Ker­win.

Adorco claimed that Lim sup­plied nar­cotics in “stag­ger­ing amounts” to Ker­win Espinosa for more than two years. On June 4, 2015, Adorco said Lim al­legedly met with him and Espinosa in Thai­land re­gard­ing the de­liv­ery of 50 ki­los pow­dered meth at the Cash & Carry park­ing lot in Makati City three days later.

But Lim was able to prove that he was not in Thai­land and was in­stead hos­pi­tal­ized at Cebu Doc­tors’ Hos­pi­tal in Cebu City for a kid­ney ail­ment on June 4, 2015.

Search for truth

Garma said the CIDG-7 is will­ing to file an­other case against Lim if there are new ev­i­dence that would prove the lat­ter’s in­volve­ment in the il­le­gal drugs trade.

“If there are peo­ple who would come for­ward and tes­tify against Peter Lim, then why not? The prob­lem is peo­ple who have knowl­edge about the il­le­gal oper­a­tions are ei­ther afraid or don’t even care,” she said.

While the dis­missal of the case against Lim has yet to be re­viewed by Aguirre, the Jus­tice sec­re­tary al­ready made an ear­lier pro­nounce­ment.

In Septem­ber 2016, Aguirre re­vealed that the Peter “Jaguar” Lim who is listed as one of the top drug lords in the coun­try ac­tu­ally re­ferred to slain Ce­buano drug lord Jef­frey “Jaguar” Diaz, and not the prom­i­nent Ce­buano busi­ness­man.

Jaguar, Cen­tral Visayas’ top drug per­son­al­ity, was gunned down by po­lice in Las Piñas City on June 17, 2016, two weeks be­fore Pres­i­dent Duterte as­sumed his post.

Aguirre said there was a mis­take in the July drug ma­trix re­leased by the Pres­i­dent.

The Jus­tice sec­re­tary said a cousin of Jaguar, Rey­naldo “Jumbo” Diaz, who was ar­rested by po­lice in Matnog town of Sor­so­gon in Septem­ber 2016, con­firmed that Jef­frey Diaz was the real Jaguar.

Garma said she was hop­ing that the truth will even­tu­ally come out.

“Hindi la­hat ng to­too ay na­pa­p­atu­nayan . In the same way na hindi la­hat ng na­pa­p­atu­nayan ay to­too. Only God knows the truth (Not all truth are proven, in the same man­ner that not all those that were proven are true),” she said.

Aside from Lim, the DOJ spe­cial task force also dis­missed the charges against Ker­win, con­victed drug lord Peter Co, al­leged drug sup­plier Lovely Adam Im­pal, Marcelo Adorco, Max Miro, Ruel Malin­dan­gan, Jun Pepito, and sev­eral oth­ers who were just known for their aliases.

As part of the procedure, the en­tire records of the case shall be el­e­vated to Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Vi­tal­iano Aguirre II for au­to­matic re­view.


Sen. Richard Gor­don on Tues­day said he and other se­na­tors were dis­mayed by the move of the DOJ to dis­miss the drug traf­fick­ing charges against Ker­win, Lim and the other re­spon­dents.

“La­hat kami sa Se­nado down­hearted dahil paano maaab­swelto yun eh in­amin na nga (We, in the Se­nate, are down­hearted be­cause how could you ab­solve some­one who al­ready made an ad­mis­sion?),” he said in an in­ter­view.

Dur­ing a Se­nate hear­ing on Nov. 23, 2016, Ker­win con­fessed to “dis­tribut­ing” drugs in the East­ern Visayan Re­gion and even named his al­leged sup­pli­ers, who in­cluded Lim.

Espinosa, how­ever, pleaded in­no­cent to drug charges dur­ing his ar­raign­ment be­fore Manila Re­gional Trial Court Branch 26.

Gor­don said Aguirre must ex­plain why the DOJ dis­missed the case of Ker­win and Lim.

“Kung ‘yang kaso na yan ay tungkol sa drugs, da­pat mag­pali­wanag si Vit Aguirre. La­hat in­aab­swelto niya (If that case is about drugs, Vit Aguirre must ex­plain. He ab­solved every­one in that case),” said Gor­don, chair of the Se­nate Blue Rib­bon Com­mit­tee, who in­ves­ti­gated the drug case of Espinosa.

Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, for­mer chief of the Al­buera po­lice in Leyte and cur­rent di­rec­tor of the Oza­miz City po­lice, was also dis­ap­pointed with the dis­missal of the case against Ker­win, Lim and the other re­spon­dents.

“I’m re­ally dis­mayed be­cause the DOJ did not give weight on the tes­ti­monies of Ker­win and Adorco. In fact, Ker­win could be a state wit­ness against Peter Lim,” he said in a ra­dio in­ter­view on Tues­day.

Espenido had filed sep­a­rate charges against Ker­win over the lat­ter’s in­volve­ment in the il­le­gal drugs trade.

Not yet fi­nal

Pres­i­den­tial Spokesper­son Harry Roque, in a press brief­ing at the Mala­cañang Palace on Tues­day, said the case against Lim, Ker­win and com­pany was “far from be­ing fi­nal.”

He also said the gov­ern­ment would file ad­di­tional ev­i­dence against the al­leged drug lords if needed.

“We con­firm that we are con­cerned over the dis­missal of the com­plaint but like what I’ve just said, we still do not know the ba­sis of the pros­e­cu­tors why they junked it and the process is not yet over,” Roque said.

He de­nounced claims that the DOJ dis­missed the charges against Lim be­cause of his con­nec­tion with Duterte.

“You know, the in­sin­u­a­tions were un­fair. Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials are al­ways in­vited to wed­dings and they are un­able to choose who will be the wed­ding spon­sors, the one who will de­cide are the bride and groom. So for me, those al­le­ga­tions are base­less, let us just let the DOJ pro­ceed with its case,” Roque said.

Duterte and Lim stood as prin­ci­pal spon­sors dur­ing the wed­ding of wealthy Cebu busi­ness cou­ple, Yuri Ofek and Beatrice Borja, in June 2016.



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